Hands On: Olympus E-3 Digital SLR | Popular Photography

Hands On: Olympus E-3 Digital SLR

Olympus reaches for pros with a rugged body, swiveling LCD, and some autofocus magic.

Hands-On-Olympus-E-3-Digital-SLR

Hands-On-Olympus-E-3-Digital-SLR

If the Olympus E-1, the company's first high-end DSLR, never caught on among pros, you can blame its painfully slow, insensitive autofocus system. But one look at the new Olympus E-3 ($1,700, estimated street, body only) was enough to convince us that, this time around, Olympus has come up with not just a much better AF system, but a much better camera all around.

Our impression comes from using a preproduction, fully operational camera that wasn't ready for testing in the Pop Photo Lab.

We expect it to do at least as well on the image quality front as the company's consumer-level Evolt E-510, since the E-3 packs a similar 10.1MP Live MOS sensor (manufactured by Panasonic). Because of its smaller size and 4:3 aspect ratio, the E-3 will also have a 2X 35mm lens factor. While 10.1MP isn't on the bleeding edge of resolution in this price category, the E-3's advanced image processing may suppress noise even further than the E-510 at ISOs up to ISO 3200.

The E-3 feels rock-solid, well balanced and easy to hold. The body, comprising a three-piece, molded, magnesium-alloy shell and impressive gasketing and weathersealing, alone puts it in pro territory.

Olympus improved the pentaprism viewfinder -- larger, with better eye relief and none of the E-1 's tunnel-vision effect. The company claims the viewfinder offers nearly 100 percent accuracy and 1.15X magnification.

Another noticeable improvement: Unlike its predecessor, the E-3 has both a pop-up flash and wireless flash control for three flash groups (with four channels each).

Kudos to the 2.5-inch LCD monitor, which can be swung to the side and turned up and down (for overhead or waist-level shooting), as well as turned inward for protection.

Most other new DSLRs in the E-3's price range sport larger LCDs, and the 3-inchers on the Nikon D300 and Sony Alpha 700 have nearly twice the resolution of the E-3's 77,000 pixels (230,000 dots). But the E-3's LCD is bright and provides sufficient detail to navigate menus or inspect images.

As with the Evolt E-510, the monitor can show the calming effects of the built-in, sensor-based stabilization system when live preview mode is turned on. It can also display camera exposure settings before shooting, simulate over- and underexposure settings, and zoom in up to 10X on any part of the image for manual-focus assist.

The autofocus system is highly sensitive and significantly faster, with selectable 11 AF zones. Olympus says that the AF's unique design uses a layered, slightly offset, CMOS sensor array to improve accuracy and low-light sensitivity. As a result, all 11 AF zones should be active cross-sensor types with any aperture lens. This may be the best AF system we've ever seen on an Olympus DSLR.

Olympus also claims it has increased the E-3's burst speed and capacity to 5 frames per second, up to the card's capacity for finest-quality JPEGs or 17 RAW images -- still a little slower than the Canon EOS 40D or Nikon D300.

In all, the E-3 looks like the DSLR that Olympus promised to deliver to pros and advanced shooters.

Product Type Product type Single-lens reflex Live View digital camera with interchangeable lens system
Memory CompactFlash Type I/II, Microdrive, xD-Picture Card (Dual-Slot)
Sensor size 0.68 in (17.3 mm) (H) x 0.51 in (13.0 mm) (V)
Lens mount Four Thirds Mount
Effective Pixels number Effective Pixels number 10.1 million pixels
Image Pickup Unit Product type Live MOS Sensor
Total no. of pixels Approx. 11.8 million pixels
Aspect ratio 1.33 (4:3)
Filter array Primary color filter (RGB)
LPF Fixed type
IR cut filter Hybrid type
Dust reduction Supersonic Wave Filter (dust reduction system for image sensor)
Recording Recording format DCF, DPOF compatible/Exif, PRINT Image Matching III
File format RAW (12-bit), JPEG, RAW+JPEG
Recording image size [RAW] 3648 x 2736 pixels
[JPEG] 3648 x 2736 pixels - 640 x 480 pixels
File size RAW: 3648 x 2736 compressed Approx. 11MB
Large: 3648 x 2736 Super fine (1/2.7 compressed) Approx. 6.8MB
3648 x 2736 Fine (1/4 compressed) Approx. 4.7MB
Viewfinder Product type Eye-level single-lens reflex viewfinder
Field of view Approx. 100%
Viewfinder magnification Approx. 1.15x (−1m-1, 50mm lens, infinity)
Eye point Approx. 20 mm (-1m-1)
Diopter adjustment range -3.0 - +1m-1
Focusing screen Changeable at a service center (Neo Lumi-Micro Mat screen supplied, possible to change to gird mat type)
Eyepiece shutter Built-in type
Eye cup Interchangeable type EP-5/6/7, EP-7 is supplied (Magnifier Eyecup ME-1 is available)
Depth of Field Preview (optical view finder & Live View) Yes, by preview button
Live preview Available to set to Fn button
View finder information Aperture value, Shutter speed, Record mode, AF confirmation mark, Flash, WB, AE lock, Number of storable still images, Exposure compensation value, Metering mode, Battery warning, Exposure mode, AF frame (super impose), IS, Bracket, ISO value
Live View Live View Live MOS Sensor for still picture shooting is used, 100% field of view,
Exposure adjustment pre-view, White balance adjustment pre-view, Gradation auto pre-view
Grid line displayable, 5x/7x/10x magnification possible, MF/S-AF,
AF frame display, AF point display, Shooting information, Histogram
AF Phase-difference detection system with mirror down.
Image stabilizer System Built in (Imager shift image stabilizer)
Mode 2 modes (2 dimensional activation, 1 dimensional activation)
Effective compensation range Approx. 5 EV steps (in maximum effect)
Monitor Product type HyperCrystal LCD (semi-transmissive TFT color LCD)
Size 2.5 inches
Total no. of pixels Approx. 230,000 pixels
Playback field of view 100%
Brightness control Auto/Manual 15 levels
Focusing AF system TTL phase-difference detection system
Focus mode Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) /
S-AF + MF / C-AF + MF
Focusing point 11-cross points multiple AF
Focusing point selection Single point, Group area, All points are selectable.
AF luminance range EV -2 to 19 (at 20℃, ISO 100)
AF illuminator Built-in flash (external flash available)
AF lock Locked at first position of Shutter button in Single AF mode / AEL button (customizable)
Focus tracking Interlocked with Continuous AF mode
Focus aid Available
Exposure Control Metering system TTL open-aperture metering system
(1) Digital ESP metering (49-points multi pattern metering) (2) Centre weighted average metering
(3) Spot metering (approx. 2% for the viewfinder screen. Highlight / shadow bases are available)
Metering range EV 1 - 20 (Digital ESP metering, Center weighted average metering, Spot metering)
(At normal temperature, 50mm f2, ISO 100)
Exposure mode (1) P: Program AE (Program shift can be performed) (2) A: Aperture priority AE
(3) S: Shutter priority AE (4) M: Manual
Underwater program AE Available to set to Fn button
ISO sensitivity AUTO (ISO 100 - 3200) / Manual (ISO 100 - 3200), 1/3 or 1 EV steps
Exposure compensation ±5 EV in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps selectable
AE lock AEL button (customizable)
Exposure bracketing 3 or 5 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1EV steps selectable
ISO bracketing 3 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1EV steps selectable
White Balance Auto WB system Hybrid detection system with Live MOS sensor and dedicated external sensor.
Preset white balance 7 settings (3000K - 7500K) Lamp (3000K), Fluorescent 1 (4000K), Fluorescent 2 (4500K), Fluorescent 3 (6600K), Daylight (5300K), Flash (5500K), Cloudy (6000K), Shade (7500K)
White balance compensation ±7 steps in each R-B/G-M axis (in Auto WB / Preset WB mode / One touch WB)
Custom white balance 1 setting can be registered at Kelvin temperature (2000K - 14000K)
One-touch white balance 4 custom settings can be registered
White balance bracketing 3 frames in 2, 4, 6 steps selectable in each R-G/G-M axis.
Color Mode Color matrix sRGB, Adobe RGB
Picture Mode Mode Vivid, Natural, Portrait, Muted, Monotone, Custom (default setting: Natural)
In custom mode, basic 5 modes and adjustment is available.
Adjustment parameter Contrast, Sharpness and Saturation level available in 5 steps for Vivid, Natural, Portrait and Muted
Contrast and Sharpness level available in 5 steps for Monotone.
In custom mode, gradation level available in 4 steps.
Filter effect Yellow, Orange, Red or Green filter available for Monotone
Picture tone Sepia, Blue, Purple or Green tone available for Monotone
Gradation 4 levels (Auto, High key, Normal, Low key)
Shutter Product type Computerized focal-plane shutter
Shutter speed P(Ps), S, A, M mode: 60 - 1/8000 sec.
Bulb: up to 30 minutes. (selectable longest time in the menu. Default: 8 min.)
1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps selectable.
Self-timer Operation time: 12 sec., 2 sec. (cancel available)
Remote cable release Available (with optional RM-CB1 Remote cable.)
Optical remote control Operation time: 2 sec., 0 sec., bulb control available (with optional RM-1 remote control)
Anti shock mode Available (1 to 30 sec selectable)
Drive Drive mode Single-frame shooting, Sequential shooting H, Sequential shooting L, Self-timer, Remote control
Sequential shooting speed Approx. 5 frames/sec. in sequential shooting H, 1 to 4 fps selectable in sequential shooting L.
Max. recordable pictures RAW mode: Max. 16 frames.
JPEG mode: Depends on compression ratio and no. of pixels (Large normal mode: up to card capacity with SanDisk Extreme III)
Integrated Flash Built-in flash Retractable flash, GN=13 (ISO 100.m)
Compatible external flash FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-50, FL-36, FL-20, STF-22, SR-11
Flash control mode TTL Auto (TTL pre-flash mode), Auto, Manual
Flash mode Auto, Red-eye reduction, Red-eye reduction slow sync., Slow sync at 1st curtain, Slow sync at 2nd curtain, Fill-in, Manual (1/4, 1/16, 1/64), Off.
Synchronization speed 1/250 sec. or less, Super FP up to 1/8000 sec.
Flash intensity control Up to ±3 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Flash bracketing 3 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1 EV steps selectable.
Wireless flash control Compatible external flash FL-50R, FL-36R
Control method Triggered and controlled by built-in flash light
Flash control mode TTL Auto (TTL pre-flash mode), Auto, Manual, FP TTL Auto, FP Manual.
Number of channel 4 channels
Group setting 3 groups
Control panel Information WB setting, WB compensation notification, B/W mode notification, Record mode, Exposure mode, ISO sensitivity
BKT notification, Flash mode, Drive mode, Recordable still image number, Storable number of images,
Exposure compensation value, Metering mode, Activated AF points, Focusing mode.
Back light timer 8 sec.
Super control panel Information (shooting) Exposure mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure compensation value bar, Exposure compensation value
Flash compensation value bar, Flash compensation value, ALE notification, Flash compensation notification
NR notification, BKT notification, AF illuminator deactivated notification, Color space, Flash mode
ISO sensitivity, Drive mode, WB setting, WB compensation value, Picture mode, Metering mode, Focusing mode
File name, Image parameter, Gradation, Date, Storable number of images, Record mode, Battery warning.
Information Exposure mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure compensation value bar, Exposure compensation value
(wireless flash commander) Flash compensation value bar, Flash compensation value, ALE notification, Flash compensation notification
NR notification, BKT notification, AF illuminator deactivated notification, Color space
Wireless channel setting, Built-in flash intensity, Group setting
Playback Playback mode Single-frame, Index (4/9/16/25 frames), Calendar, Close-up ( 2 - 14X),
Slideshow, Picture rotation (auto mode available), Light box
Information display Histogram (independent luminance / RGB available),
Highlight / Shadow point warning, AF frame, Shooting information
Menu Languages Japan: Japanese, English US: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese Europe: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish Others: English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean Additional one language is possible to download.
Reset & custom setting Custom reset 2 setting recordable
My mode 2 setting recordable
Image Editing Erasing function Single frame, All frames, Selected frames
Protect function Single frame, Selected frames, Release protect (Single/All selected)
Copy between media Single frame, All frames, Selected frames
RAW picture editing RAW development
JPEG editing Resize (producing another file), Gradation auto
Print Print function Print reservation (DPOF), Direct print (PictBridge compatible)
Input/Output PC interface USB 2.0 High Speed for storage and camera control (MTP mode is available)
Video connector Video out (Video: NTSC/PAL selectable)
Flash attachment Hot shoe
DC-in Yes (AC-1 compatible)
Sync. Cord Socket For Attaching External Strobe Cord.
Power Requirements Battery BLM-1 Li-ion battery (included)
CR123 x 3 with LBH-1
Sleep mode Available (1, 3, 5, 10 min., off selectable)
No. of recordable pictures Approx. 610 shots (optical viewfinder)
(with 50% flash light) (with BLM-1 under CIPA testing standard)
Power battery holder HLD-4 compatible
Dimensions/Weight Dimensions 5.6 in. (W) x 4.58 in. (H) x 2.9 in. (D) /142.5mm (W) x 116.5mm (H) x 74.5mm (D) (excluding protrusions)
Weight 1.79lbs (28.2 oz.) / 810 g (body only)
Operating Environment Temperature 32 F - 104 F / 0 - 40℃ (operation) -4 F - 140 F / -20 - 60℃ (storage)
Humidity 30 - 90% (operation) / 10 - 90% (storage)
Splash proof Yes
Box contents E-3 body, Li-ion battery BLM-1, Li-ion battery charger BCM-2, USB cable, Video cable, Shoulder strap, OLYMPUS Master CD-ROM, Instruction manual, Warranty card.
These-sketches-show-the-design-evolution-of-the-Ol

These-sketches-show-the-design-evolution-of-the-Ol

These sketches show the design evolution of the Olympus E-3.

The-Olympus-E-3-has-a-swiveling-LCD-a-rarity-in

The-Olympus-E-3-has-a-swiveling-LCD-a-rarity-in

The Olympus E-3 has a swiveling LCD -- a rarity in pro-level DSLRs.

The-E-3-can-shoot-at-up-to-five-frames-a-second-a

The-E-3-can-shoot-at-up-to-five-frames-a-second-a

The E-3 can shoot at up to five frames a second, and the shutter mechanism is rated at 150,000 cycles.

Olympus-claims-exceptionally-fast-Autofocus-speeds

Olympus-claims-exceptionally-fast-Autofocus-speeds

Olympus claims exceptionally fast Autofocus speeds on the Olympus E-3.

This-chart-shows-the-frequency-of-location-of-prim

This-chart-shows-the-frequency-of-location-of-prim

This chart shows the frequency of location of primary subject in thousands of photographs, based on Olympus research.

Detail-of-the-dual-layer-houndstooth-pattern-11-p

Detail-of-the-dual-layer-houndstooth-pattern-11-p

Detail of the dual-layer, houndstooth pattern 11-point biaxial autofocus sensor, which Olympus claims has an AF range of EV -2 to EV19.

Detail-of-the-E-3-s-AF-sensor-assembly-and-optical

Detail-of-the-E-3-s-AF-sensor-assembly-and-optical

Detail of the E-3's AF sensor assembly and optical path. There is a dedicated Temperature sensor, which Olympus claims will compensate for changes in operating temperature.

The-left-diagram-shows-the-Viewfinder-view-while

The-left-diagram-shows-the-Viewfinder-view-while

The left diagram shows the Viewfinder view, while the right diagram shows that all 11 AF points are cross-type sensors.

Schematic-of-the-dual-layer-design-of-the-AF-senso

Schematic-of-the-dual-layer-design-of-the-AF-senso

Schematic of the dual-layer design of the AF sensor array.

The-Olympus-E-3-has-a-maximum-shutter-speed-of-1-8

The-Olympus-E-3-has-a-maximum-shutter-speed-of-1-8

The Olympus E-3 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 and x-syncs at 1/250.

Olympus-claims-minimal-lag-time-and-virtually-no-s

Olympus-claims-minimal-lag-time-and-virtually-no-s

Olympus claims minimal lag time and virtually no shutter blackout, even at 5 frames per second.

The-Olympus-E-3-uses-dedicated-engines-for-Image-S

The-Olympus-E-3-uses-dedicated-engines-for-Image-S

The Olympus E-3 uses dedicated engines for Image Stabilization, Autofocusing, and image processing.

The-E-3-s-dual-card-slots-will-hold-a-CF-and-xD-ty

The-E-3-s-dual-card-slots-will-hold-a-CF-and-xD-ty

The E-3's dual card slots will hold a CF and xD-type memory card.

Detail-of-the-internal-location-of-the-Image-Stabi

Detail-of-the-internal-location-of-the-Image-Stabi

Detail of the internal location of the Image Stabilization elements of the floating sensor.

Detail-of-the-sensor-assembly

Detail-of-the-sensor-assembly

Detail of the sensor assembly.

Exploded-cross-section-of-the-floating-sensor-asse

Exploded-cross-section-of-the-floating-sensor-asse

Exploded cross-section of the floating sensor assembly.

Schematic-of-microlenses-on-the-10MP-sensor-showin

Schematic-of-microlenses-on-the-10MP-sensor-showin

Schematic of microlenses on the 10MP sensor showing smaller gap between the microlenses and the sensors, and smaller circuitry, as opposed to smaller light acceptors.

X-ray-view-of-the-viewfinder

X-ray-view-of-the-viewfinder

X-ray view of the viewfinder.

Detail-of-the-viewfinder-display-and-functions

Detail-of-the-viewfinder-display-and-functions

Detail of the viewfinder display and functions.

X-ray-view-of-the-magnesium-construction

X-ray-view-of-the-magnesium-construction

X-ray view of the magnesium construction.

More-x-ray-views-of-the-E-3

More-x-ray-views-of-the-E-3

More x-ray views of the E-3.

Obverse-and-reverse-view-of-the-magnesium-chassis

Obverse-and-reverse-view-of-the-magnesium-chassis

Obverse and reverse view of the magnesium chassis of the E-3.

X-ray-view-of-the-weathersealing-in-the-Olympus-E

X-ray-view-of-the-weathersealing-in-the-Olympus-E

X-ray view of the weathersealing in the Olympus E-3.

Details-of-the-SSW-integrated-sensor-cleaning-mech

Details-of-the-SSW-integrated-sensor-cleaning-mech

Details of the SSW integrated sensor cleaning mechanism.

Olympus-E-3-Pro-Caliber-The-new-Olympus-E-3-is-a

Olympus-E-3-Pro-Caliber-The-new-Olympus-E-3-is-a

Pro Caliber: The new Olympus E-3 is a giant leap forward from the older Olympus E-1, and boasts a better-sealed body, 10.1MP Live MOS sensor with live preview, pop-up flash, swiveling 2.5-inch LCD, and super-fast AF system.

Olympus-E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus-E-3

Olympus E-3

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-right

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (right)

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-bottom

Olympus-E-1-and-E-3-bottom

Olympus E-1 and E-3 (bottom)

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